General Motors will not make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for its American workers, the automaker confirmed last week.
A GM spokesperson told Automotive News last week that its workers will not be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine, though the automaker is working on ways to give employees access to the vaccine once it becomes available.
UAW president Rory Gamble said that he will encourage union members to get the vaccine, but believes mandating it is going a step too far.
“UAW members are American,” he said in an interview. “In America, you get people with different religious beliefs, you have people who are just of the opinion that they don’t take any vaccines at all. We think that should be respected. We’re very willing to sit down and work out with the companies going forward how we manage those issues.”
Gamble also told AN that he believes autoworkers are a critical part of the American economy, which should entitle them to early access to the vaccine.
“It’s been proven the automotive industry is very essential to the economy of this country,” he said. “Our members are on the front lines, working in environments that are really scary as it relates to how the virus spreads. I totally agree health care workers should get it first, but as this thing comes on line in waves, we need to consider labor in this country that goes to work every day and fights in fear of this virus to keep this country moving.”
GM has not had any major outbreaks of COVID-19 at its American assembly plants, though some workers have still tested positive for the virus. The automaker has safety guidelines in place at its manufacturing facilities to keep workers safe, which include taking employees’ temperatures when they arrive at work, mandatory PPE while in the building and social distancing measures. The automaker also sent employees 40-page playbook outlining best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19 earlier this year.
GM said earlier this month that it is currently working on a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for those workers who wish to receive the shot. More details on the distribution plan are expected to be released in the coming weeks.